Authorities have traditionally considered the common man to be unimportant, as far as being able to implement their desires are concerned (cf. John 7:48-49). Those who have no power of their own are treated as such by those who have the power. Although they might not put it this way, just as the bully usually gets his way, so do governments who don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves. At times governments may have to guard how they do a thing (cf. Acts 5:26), but in the end they are usually able to manipulate the people to desire whatever the authorities want to do (cf. Mark 15:10-14; Matthew 27:20).
In this context, Jesus’ mention of sparrows in Luke 12:6 is revealing. The very abundance of sparrows would tend to marginalize their value, and who is mindful of a single hair dropping from one’s head (Luke 12:7)? Such things seem unimportant to men, but they are known by God who created everything that exists. In the context of pretense being uncovered and revealed (Luke 12:1), and clandestine activity endorsed by seemingly powerful enemies, a disciple of Christ may be tempted to believe he is unimportant in the great scheme of things. Yet, Jesus said God is mindful of each of us (Luke 12:1-5). We may not be important to the designs of the world, but we are important to our Creator. We may wonder how powerless lambs could ever succeed in a world whose laws and privileges seem to benefit the lion and the wolf, but God is able to cause all things to work toward our benefit, who are called to do his will (Romans 8:28).
Jesus said five sparrows were sold for two farthings (Luke 12:6), but in Matthew 10:29 he said two sparrows were sold for a single farthing. In other words two farthings bought twice as many sparrows, plus an additional sparrow for free. What Jesus intends to tell us is that what has absolutely no value for men (the free sparrow) has value to God. If God doesn’t forget the sparrow that has no monetary value whatsoever, how much more will he remember those who pray for and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to men who don’t know him (Luke 11:2).
Does God count hairs? Probably not! He probably simply knows all the insignificant details that make us up (cf. Luke 12:7; cf. 1Samuel 14:45; 2Samuel 14:11; 1Kings 1:52), like a computer knows each “0” and each “1” that make up the data on the hard drives of our computers. Just as not one “0” or a single “1” is missed by the computer’s central processor, so God doesn’t miss anything in our lives, no matter how insignificant it may appear to others.
This is not to say that God is like the computer and simply monitors the details of our lives, but really doesn’t care one way or another about how things work out for us, as some believe today. In fact, how much input (if any) God has in our lives has been the subject of debate for millennia:
“At this time there were three sects among the Jews, who had different opinions concerning human actions; the one was called the sect of the Pharisees, another the sect of the Sadducees, and the other the sect of the Essens. Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate. But the sect of the Essens affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination. And for the Sadducees, they take away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly.” (Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews 13.5.9)
As we are able to determine from this excerpt the Pharisees believed that God determined some things in life but not all; man was able to act freely concerning some matters. The Essens, on the other hand, believed God determined all things, while the Sadducees claimed God had no input in a man’s life (which is basically what many people believe today, if they believe in God at all). In the final analysis, however, Jesus tells us that God is mindful of the sparrow that men placed no value on whatsoever. Jesus unveils his Father as a God who is intimately concerned over his people, and, although we are marginalized by this world’s authorities, we are precious to him, which he has shown by sending his Son to save us from death (extinction).